Skeptics Survey Analysis
From September 26th until October 11nd, a survey has been run with the focus on “Skeptics”: what do they think etc. The survey was responded to quite well, with almost 500 full responses and another 173 partial responses. After validity/plausibility checking of all records, 578 records are left as useful.
It must be emphasized that this is not a representative survey; to begin with, we have no generally accepted definition of what a “skeptic” constitutes. Instead we have simply asked in the introduction “Do you consider yourself a skeptic?”, and invited for responses only if this question was positively answered. However, we consider our survey useful, as it provides a number of hypotheses about this unknown population of “skeptics”, and it is hoped that social scientists may have a starting point to seriously engage in research about this socio-political phenomenon.
- The complete survey text is contained in this pdf document that contains the detailed statistics
- A web presentation of the statistics is here.
A note regarding the survey setup
Some survey participants have complained – not only on this site – demonstrating that a checking by a native speaker would have improved readability. Others said that the survey be “clunky” or so. Regarding this: it was not the intention to set up a “simple” survey. Simple surveys that are freely accessible in the internet lack representativeness in their statistics. They tend to attract people having an extra motivation to express their opinions. This was also the reason to make most of the questions mandatory. Anybody who was interested to see the questions on subsequent pages had to fill out 7 mandatory questions. Page 2 requested more attendance – but what would you expect from a classic computer game where you reach next level?
In order to get an impression of seriousness of individual attendants, it was asked whether winter 2010 was a reason to get to skeptics (should not – only 2,4% ticked here), or whether skepticalscience.com is considered a good place for skeptics (should not , it is a warmist's site – indeed 21% of all participants ticked content OK or “hm”).
About additional data retrieved from the responses
According to the recorded IP-numbers the following frequency distribution according to major cultural regions was derived. Please take notice of the terminology used here. You will encounter it below as well as in the statistics itself. Adapting to common shortform terms the definition is:
|Anglo||North America and Australia||180|
|Eur/ang||UK and Ireland||51|
Normally, “anglo” represents the whole anglo-american culture area. Here the european “anglos” are separated, simply to review the statistics. Asia is not taken into account in detail statistics. About the same grouping into areas was used in my March survey.
Further, most response records contain information about the web site the attendants used to reach the survey (so called 'referrers'). In several cases, other web-sites placed a direct link to our survey – they show up in our distribution.
Note: only a few referrer sites are recorded, simply due to the fact that the survey is not actively promoted.
Interesting filtered response distributions on the cultural region or referrer site are listed in the statistics summary below.
The average time to fill out the survey was approx. 6-7 minutes.
Q1: The (roughly) reason for being a skeptic.
The answers to this question show that 2/3 are skeptic because they find that knowledge about the earth's climate system would be insufficient for legitimating mitigation measures. Only 12% respond that what present knowledge claims is mainly wrong. Climate scientists (11 respondents declare themselves as belonging to this category) were more rigorous than other respondents: 36% tick “mainly wrong”.
Q2: How long engaged/interested in climatic issues?
25% of the respondents became interested after the hot news issue of IPCC2007. Most layman are no longer than 10 years, and the skeptical scientists are generally engaged for a longer time.
Q.3: Initial opinion upon first contact with climatic issues?
There is a clear warmist (38%)/”neutral” tendency. There are some differences when the statistics are filtered according to education background, cultural region or referrer – but not truly significant for the purpose of this survey.
Q.4 Which experience had respondents upon having asked their first critical questions?
Two of the six possible answers were clearly on top of the votes:
- The answer was an attempt to promote a political point of view (35%)
- The answer showed limited competence of the other side.
“Anglos” complain more about limited competence than Europeans; they however claim to have encountered more often frequent “ignorance”. An indication of some “ivory tower” mentality among European scientists?
Q.5 How did attendants get to skepticism?
As was expected, internet resources was the most ticked choice in this multiple-options question (63%). The hockey stick discussion also represents a major factor. Both of these are clearly less a factor for skeptical climate scientists (internet 27%); for these scientific publications are an important factor (up to 69%).
Interestingly, laymen are most impressed by Al Gore's “Inconvenient truth” – as a key driver for becoming a skeptic.
Q.6 What is the tendency, related to the past two years?
A vast majority (74%) tends clearly towards skepticism in this time scale. Attendants from web pages as eike-klima-energie.eu and nelson.blogspot as well as oekowatch.org are ticked around 83% (or even 100%).
There is no significant deviation when filtered through the different education levels.
Q.7 The scientific background
Three main categories (layman, engineer and scientist) were defined, the academic ones subdivided in three “expert” levels.
This question serves to provide an analysis aid for other questions. The (link) response statistics as referred to above contains a matrix where this background is compared with cultural region. Laymen are about equally well represented in the different regions.
Q.8 Twentyone statements where the respondent's opinion was requested
Here we discuss only a selection of questions which went with interesting results. For the purpose of this summary they are grouped in six groups (as in the statistics report).
Just a small majority agreed that CO2 contributes to the greenhouse effect (8a). Skeptical Klimazwiebel readers agree to 72%. On the other end of the scale we find eike-klima-energie.eu at 29% agree, and a high 38% disagree figure compared to others. It is also apparent, that respondents from Anglo countries incl. Britain agree to 71%, while continental Europe agrees to only 42%.
Interesting is also, that the rate of “agree” is proportional to the education level: range from 50% to 73%.
There is high consensus that weather extremes (8b) are NOT occurring more frequently today.
Whether climate forecasts are able to provide knowledge about the future (8o) is declined by a clear majority.
IPCC report statements
Regarding the statement about the very relevance of the recently revealed IPCC report failures (8d), 59% say that these failures have significant relevance. This is almost uniform across education levels. Continental Europeans vs. “Anglos” agree with 50% resp. 71%. A detail figure: a high 39% of nelson.blogspot readers (average = 24%) say that most of the 2007 report (8e) is incorrect.
Perception about rigidness of opinions
When asking about the openness of warmists resp. skeptics to new insights (don't change opinions until hard facts occur), it is interesting to see that the “other” camp is assumed to be more stubborn than people from the “own” camp: Warmists (8f) are believed by 67% of skeptics to not “change opinions until hard facts occur” while skeptics (8g) are by 38% believed to change opinions. The respondent's own “agree” figure: 29% (vs. 31% not agree - 8h), and British respondents tend to find themselves far less stubborn (14%).
Should mitigation measures mainly be based on the recommendations of scientists (8m)? A minor 21% agrees. Continental Europeans agree to 29%, while all others only to 11%. Engineers also tend to disagree.
The alternative: open disputations at many places (8n) goes at 47%/21% agree/disagree rate, but it appears that skeptical continental Europeans agree to a lesser extent – almost complementary to the former question. They seem to trust scientists more.
Whether uncertainties in climatic scenario forecasts legitimate the implementation of provisional mitigation measures (8j), most of the respondents declined (61% no, 9% yes). This is in accordance with the response to Question 1.
A clear majority does not agree (> 65%) that avoiding risks is better than adapting to a changing climate (8p) or – a comparable question – that the present climate has to be conserved (8q).
Warmists are assumed to tend to “left-sided” political attitude, while skeptics tend to favor a liberal economy (8i) – this pattern of answers confirms the results from the March survey: 44% agree to this statement (the march survey attested 0.32 correlation).
The climate debate is highly seen as a political debate (8s, 78%). Whether it is also a scientific debate is considered differently: Again skeptical continental Europeans differ, here 12% agree rate (others: 29%).
Energy related statements
Trading CO2 emission certificates (8k) is clearly treated as a nonsense measure by skeptics. The agreement to the claim that we cannot secure our energy supply without fossil fuels is among skeptical continental Europeans 56%, and thus smaller than among others 68%.
Q.9 Who are the big names in the skeptic world?
Clear winners: Stephen McIntyre and Richard Lindzen. Anthony Watts and others follow with a certain distance.
In 71 responses, an additional name was mentioned – with Henrik Svensmark and Joanne Nova most frequent.
Q.10 Surveying the internet reading resources
A open answer option should have been included with this question, too. Due to a technical limitation this could unfortunately not be included.
Both in terms of visiting frequency and content review, Anthony Watt's web site is the top location for skeptics.
It is also apparent that realclimate.org is a “must check” resource for many survey participants. Quite possibly, many skeptics get the feed from here for maintaining their counterpositions.
Regarding klimazwiebel: Nice to see that for a big part the content is acknowledged as OK.
A final word: Seen the 15% total population that acknowledged content of realclimate.org and skepticalscience.com as OK, I tested the statistics without these records. Probably 15% warmists had attended the survey. It is found that the statistics without these 15% makes only minor differences.
Regarding the cultural areas: the survey results confirm that British attendants can in fact be categorized in the more general “anglo” category, since their figures mostly correlate with the anglo category in this analysis.